Be as innocent as a dove and as wise as a serpent.
MAY 5, 2022
Be as innocent as a dove and as wise as a serpent. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers, that’s what Key Life is all about. So, if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening. Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open it to the 13th chapter of Acts, and this is where Paul, I’m not going to read it again, but it’s where Paul confronts the magician and the magician goes blind. And you know, that’s a good witness. That’ll do it every time. We think, you know, when people are healed, that’s a wonderful witness to Jesus. But sometimes the opposite happens. People go blind. And in this case, that was a major witness to the proconsul who became a Christian, because God had moved in a rather clear and painful way with the magician who was getting in the way. Now, we’re talking about Christians with brass and we have suggested that being sent out by the Holy Spirit and being bold, does not preclude a rational strategy. In Acts 13:5 through 7, Jesus was a man with a plan and his followers had that too, a strategy to accomplish what God has called them to do, led by the Holy Spirit. And when the magician got in the way of what clearly God had meant for them to do, he was confronted. And we’re going to talk about honest confrontation a little bit later, but at least here know that it was not because their ego was bruised, that Paul was angry with the magician. He didn’t confront him because he knew that he was a charlatan doing magic tricks that were silly. He confronted him because the magician got in the way of what God had clearly called them to do and had given them the plan to do it. Now, I can say a lot more about that, but we got to move on. Being sent, and this is number two, out by the Holy Spirit and being bold does not preclude wisdom, Acts 13:8.
But Elymas the magician (for that’s the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith.
Now, if that had happened in the church, we would say, listen, that magician, he, you know, he’s good at heart. I mean, he means well, but they didn’t do that. They used wisdom and said, this man is interfering with the work of God. And in that wisdom, they made a decision to confront. A clear judgment requires calling a spade, a spade. That’s why Jesus said you, you hypocrites. That’s why he said you’re a whitewashed tomb. That’s why he said you’re a brood of vipers. This is Matthew 23. And the reason he said it because they were hypocrites, they were whitewashed tombs, they were a brood of vipers. And Christians need to be very wise and clear in calling things as they really are. Gus Hall was at one time, a pretty well-known expert in extremism. And, he was teaching in a particular place and a sweet lady stood up and said, Mr. Hall, what we need to do is to sit down and talk to these people so that we can understand each other. No ma’am Hall said, we do not. I think that what will solve the problem, is to take off our rose colored glasses and see things as they really are. Ask God to give wisdom, a clear judgment in terms of what you do before you confront. You know, I’ve confronted people that didn’t need to be confronted and I’ve hugged people who didn’t need to be hugged. I used to teach students how to identify, who needed to be kicked and who needed to be hugged. And don’t ever get those confused because if you get them confused, you’re going to make a mess out of things. And that comes from wisdom. And wisdom comes from God. Father, make me as wise as a serpent, but make me as innocent as a dove. We as Christians need to see the world as it really is, we need to understand reality. We need to deal with it with wisdom and balance. It’s really important. Let me show you something else. Being sent out by the Holy Spirit and having brass and being bold did not preclude an honest confrontation, Acts 13:10.
And Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you’re an enemy of all righteousness, full of deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked straight paths of the Lord?”
Oh my, other than that, what did you think about them, Paul? We have something going on here and it’s honest confrontation. It’s calling things the way they are. And again, don’t forget what Paul said about the fruit of the Spirit, that’s important, but we’ve got to speak truth to power and we got to stand up and we got to say it. I remember, one time back when I was a semi-liberal theologically, didn’t believe much, I was in an ecclesiastical meeting and a friend of mine, in fact, a man I’d come to love. He was crippled. He had Parkinson’s and he taught me how to pray. But some of the people in this ecclesiastical meeting were talking about having an inner city ministry. And when they talked about inner city ministry, they meant getting involved in ways that were political and not always wise, and sometimes made problems even worse. And my friend with his cane walked to the front of this ecclesiastical meeting and he said, you know, I am so glad that we are finally working in the inner city. There are so many souls in the inner city that need being saved. And, they laughed at him because that’s not what the cool kids would say. You didn’t talk about being saved and things like that and they laughed at him. And I didn’t laugh, but I didn’t stand with him either. But that night when I was driving home, I said, Lord, I’m so ashamed of myself. And I promise you that from now on when a brother stands, I’m going to stand with him. When they laugh at him, they’re going to laugh at two of us. I promise that when a brother or sister has been ostracized, they’ll have to kick two of us out. And by and large, I’ve pretty much stuck to that all along. I’ve stood with brothers and sisters and have often moved in honest confrontation, in those particular situations. Christians may lose the world by default, if we don’t learn to stand up and speak out and speak truth. We can do it gently, but it needs to be done. And then it needs to be done clearly. Now, let me show you something else, to be sent out with boldness, to be a Christian with brass does not preclude, and this is the result, a response of astonishment, Acts 13:12.
Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Oh man. That is true. We’re afraid that if we stand up, that people won’t like us, that if we stand up, we won’t be acceptable in certain circles, that if we proclaim who we belong to and what we believe, that we will be rejected and we might, but they won’t laugh. They really won’t. In the early church, and I’ve told you that as we study Acts, we’re looking at war stories. The early church, the book of Acts says, turned the world upside down, but they didn’t laugh. They were astonished at how God used nobodies to accomplish his purpose in a major way. And so, the proconsul saw first the power of God in the lives of these missionaries. And then he listened to what they said, and then he was astonished. Hey guys, we don’t astonish people much anymore. Pagans have us kind of figured, don’t they? They know what we’re going to say and what we believe and how we’re going to be nice. And you ought to disabuse them of that. That’s the calling from Scripture, to disabuse the world of what they commonly think of Christians. Here in the book of Acts, we see Christians with brass, who stood up and were counted and astonished the leaders, the pagan leaders. So, as a result of what I’ve taught you, go out and offend somebody. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. And that’s another wonderful week of teaching from Acts in the books. Of course, we will resume our leisurely tour through Acts next week, but tomorrow we’ll step aside for a day to answer the questions that listeners like you have sent in. It’s a little thing we call Friday Q&A, and it is a pretty good time. Don’t miss it. So, here’s a question. Have you ever felt like the church no longer meets your needs? Well, for a lot of Christians, it’s a very relevant and timely question. It’s also a question. Kendra Fletcher explores in her article called When the Church Can’t Meet Your Needs. You’ll find that piece in the current issue of Key Life Magazine, along with articles from some of your favorite Key Life voices like Chad West, Pete Alwinson and yeah, of course, Steve. Get your free copy, right now, by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org to ask for that magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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